This display brings together a selection of sculptures that Kippenberger made in 1989–90 for a series of almost identical exhibitions in Cologne, New York and Los Angeles. The process of creating multiple versions of the same exhibition allowed the artist to experiment with ideas of the replica, a strategy that many artists – Jeff Koons, perhaps most famously – were exploring at the time. The series also saw him develop the lamp and gondola as important motifs that he frequently used in his work.
Kippenberger developed the gondola motif in a series entitled Sozialkistentransporter [Transporter for Social Boxes] 1989 for the first of these three exhibitions in Cologne, an image that reflects Kippenberger’s attraction to kitschy romance and the past glories of the tourist destinations Venice and Capri. The word ‘kiste’ is buried within the title, which translates literally to ‘box’ or ‘chest’, but it also suggests a person’s outward appearance, social background and relations with others.
The artist’s interest in replicas and variations on a motif is also reflected in the self-portraits in this room. The life-size sculpture, Martin, ab in die Ecke und schäm Dich (Martin, Into the Corner, You Should Be Ashamed of Yourself) 1989, was created in response to an article in a German art magazine in which Kippenberger was accused of being a drunken cynic with questionable politics. The artist made six versions of the sculpture, each one with a slight variation in treatment or material, of which three are exhibited here. The paintings offer a similarly ironic comment on the status of the artist. Based partly on a photograph of Pablo Picasso, the self-portraits depict the artist bearded, undressed and with his underpants pulled over his swollen belly, hinting at both his skill as a painter and the premature ageing of his body. The same paintings also depict objects derived from Kippenberger’s sculpture series Peter 1987. Although the sculptures no longer exist as individual works, elements of them survive in paintings, drawings and installations, including The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s ‘Amerika’.